Saturday, July 27, 2013

Nursing During Pregnancy: Can I Continue to Nurse My Older Child after the Baby is Born?

Let's talk about breastfeeding and pregnancy! There are several issues at work here, and I'll be talking about a few of them over the course of this week. 

The questions I'll be covering are:
Can I Continue to Nurse My Older Child after the Baby is Born?

Today's Question: Can I Continue to Nurse My Older Child after the Baby is Born?

If you're planning to nurse through your pregnancy, which we've established is safe and possible for most women, the next question that will logically arise is, What happens once the baby is born? Can and should I continue to nurse my toddler?

The short answer is, Yes! You absolutely can nurse more than one child at a time. Women with twins (and even triplets) do so successfully, and women also successfully and happily nurse a toddler and a newborn at the same time. Your body will make as much milk as your nurslings demand, so if two babies (or a baby and a toddler) are demanding milk, your body will increase production to meet that demand.

Nursing more than one child at a time is called "tandem nursing." You can nurse at literally the same time, with one child on each breast, or you can have them take turns.

Most women who have tandem nursed a toddler and a newborn have reported it to be a positive experience. It enables them to maintain that closeness with their toddler and continue to supply breastmilk to him or her, and it helps them to foster a bond between the toddler and the baby, as the toddler gets to "share" milk with the new baby brother or sister.

A few things to note if you decide to try tandem nursing:

1.  Feed the baby first.
Toddlers can eat solid foods, drink other milks and water, and should not need to nurse as much or as often as a newborn. Make sure you are meeting your newborn's nursing needs over those of your toddler, since nursing is your newborn's only source of nutrition. If your toddler is jealous of the time the baby has at the breast, you can make that time special for your toddler as well. Create a special "nursing basket" of activities you two can do together while the baby nurses, such as books to read or videos to watch, and bring those things out only when you sit down to nurse the baby.

2. Colostrum and newborn milk have laxative properties.
Breastmilk changes as your baby grows. The milk your body was making for your toddler was different from the milk your body will now make for your newborn. Colostrum and early milk have laxative properties, which means your toddler's stools may become looser when he starts getting that sweet, runny newborn milk. Just as a word of warning!

3. Your toddler will likely want to nurse more.
It's very likely that the increased flow of milk your toddler gets now that your body is back to making milk for a full-time nursing newborn will make him want to nurse more often. He will enjoy the flavor and volume of the milk. It is up to you to set limits on his nursing so that your newborn still gets "first dibs" on your milk.

What if I don't want to tandem nurse?
If you decide you don't want to try tandem nursing, you should wean your toddler at least six weeks before you expect the baby to be born. You want to establish the habit of not nursing before he sees a baby brother or sister nursing regularly. Some toddlers will be curious about nursing even if they've been weaned for a long time, and some will even ask to try it. This did not happen with my sons, but I have heard of this from other mothers. Some choose to allow the toddler to try nursing. Most toddlers who have been weaned for more than a month or two (or even a week or two) don't remember how to latch and cannot draw out any milk and quickly lose interest. If they do manage to get milk, many are no longer accustomed to the taste and find their usual foods more interesting.

If you have any questions about nursing during pregnancy, feel free to ask in the comments or on the Facebook page.

Did you nurse through your pregnancy? What issues, if any, did you encounter? Have you tandem nursed? Would you encourage another mother to try tandem nursing if she is unsure? What additional advice do you have for nursing through pregnancy or tandem nursing?

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